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Mary Pattillo

Chair, Department of African American Studies; Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies; Institute for Policy Research Faculty Affiliate

Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Chicago, 1997
B.A. in Urban Studies, Columbia University
Curriculum Vitae
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Research Interests:

Urban Sociology
Black Middle Class
Race and Policy


Mary Pattillo's areas of interest include race and ethnicity (specifically the black middle class), urban sociology, and qualitative methods. Pattillo uses the city of Chicago as her laboratory and strives to be an expert in Chicago history, politics, and social life. In her book, Black Picket Fences (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Pattillo investigates the economic, spatial, and cultural forces that affect child-rearing and youth socialization in a black middle class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Black Picket Fences won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association.

Her second book, Black on the Block (University of Chicago Press 2007) focused on gentrification and public housing transformation in North Kenwood - Oakland on Chicago's South Side. The book develops the concept of "middlemen" and "middlewomen," the roles that black professionals play in working alternatively to mediate or exacerbate racial and class inequality. It won the Robert Park Best Book Award and a proclamation of the City of Chicago. Current research projects include a study of how parents negotiate school choice and how families make housing choices in Chicago.

Current research projects include a new research paradigm on “Black Advantage Vision” and a study of Black safety in Chicago.

Pattillo is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political & Social Science. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the W.T. Grant Foundation and Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts, and was a founding board member of Urban Prep Academies in Chicago.  

Recent Awards:

2020, Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

2019-20, Fulbright and ICETEX Scholar, Colombia, South America

2018, Weinberg College Community Building Award

2008, Robert E. Park Award for Best Book in Community and Urban Sociology from the American Sociological Association

2004, Named Northwestern University Arthur Andersen Research and Teaching Professor

2000, Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award, Racial and Ethnic Minorities Section, American Sociological Association

2000, Outstanding Academic Book Award, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

Recent Book Publications:

Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City , University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration , Mary Pattillo, David Weiman, and Bruce Wester, eds. Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2004.

Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class , Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.